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Tuesday 26 September 2017

Daughter condemns 'chemical cosh' that ruined her father's last days

Health watchdog HIQA has raised concerns over the use of drugs to restrain elderly and disabled residents in care homes
Health watchdog HIQA has raised concerns over the use of drugs to restrain elderly and disabled residents in care homes

David Kearns

A daughter described how “powerless” she felt to stop a care home from administering a daily ‘chemical restraint’ to her father, blaming it for his increasing instability before his death.

Alice, whose father had Alzheimer's, said there was a startling “transformation of my dad within weeks of moving into a HSE run home”.

Having been shown medical records after she raised concerns about her father’s well-being, Alice learned he was being administered an anti-psychotic drug she had previously insisted not be part of his treatment.

“After six weeks I spoke to the manager at the home because my dad had really deteriorated and she showed me he was being given the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel, which he had been on very briefly at home but was taken off because it caused him to hallucinate,” she told Newstalk’s Lunchtime Show.

“He as seeing animals in his bed and would talk to the furniture. I told the manager that I had asked that my father not be given that anti-psychotic drug but it was clear my concerns were ignored.”

Read More: Is 'chemical cosh' really an outrage against dignity?

Clinical records show Alice’s father was administered Seroquel, an antipsychotic drug not authorised for use among over-65s or individuals with Alzheimer’s, three times a day.

The drug’s sedative-type side-effects means it is often used to control the behaviour of patients with challenging behaviour, though it is not licensed for this use.

Alice said he was also given benzodiazepines, antiepileptic medication (though he did not have epilepsy), antidepressants and sleeping tablets on a regular basis.

“His care plan was not discussed with us; we had no idea of the drugs he was on. When you go into a HSE-run home, they take over the script and they use their own GP. It means families don’t have any input or control over their relatives care.

“I just feel they took ownership of my father. I don’t blame the staff, I blame the management… [for] creating a world of nothingness for him. They never managed him, they just controlled him. We would never have put him into the home if we’d known how he’d be treated.

“He’d lost weight and had gone from being upright and steady on his feet to being hunched over and very unsteady.”

Read More: Severely disabled residents locked up, undernourished and physically abused - damning new report

Speaking about her father’s quality of life, Alice said he spent almost all his time in bed despite requests from the family that he be taken for walks.

“They just kept telling us he needed it, we weren’t listened to and we were actually laughed at,” she said.

“I asked could they at least bring him to Church and they said it would be too much of a hassle.

“Our dad was given [these] drugs on a daily basis – he was getting a sedative at 7am, which there is no justification for. He was 83 at the time, and that would keep him asleep until lunch time, were he’d get another one, and then he’d get again in the evening and then a sleeping tablet before bed.”

“They told me it was because he could be difficult at breakfast . . . But breakfast wasn’t until nine. And they wonder were he lost third stone,” she added.

Read More: What the hospital scandals teach us about management

After being admitted to hospital with sepsis and dehydration, Alice said her father’s medication was reduced dramatically over seven weeks. The change, Alice said, was remarkable.

“He came to life. It was like another person.

“[However] when he  returned to the nursing home, his dosage was increased again and he died within three weeks.

“You can’t keep giving a drug to someone who is having a bad reaction to it. Morally it’s wrong ,” she added.

“In Dad’s case, they just continued to medicate, irrespective of what we said."

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